Summer flu notifications soar to highest in 5 years
GYMPIE region residents are being urged to remain vigilant and practice good hygiene, with Summer flu numbers at the highest they have been in the last five years.
Queensland Health's A/Medical Director Communicable Disease Branch, Dr Jonathan Malo said while Queensland was on track to record a five-year low in influenza cases, confirmed cases in November and December 2018 were unusually high.
"During 2018 we had a mild flu season - not only did we avoid a repeat of 2017, which was one of the worst years for flu on record, but we are set to report the lowest number of cases since 2013,” Dr Malo said.
"However, we have seen an increase in the number of confirmed cases usually reported for this time of year.
In the Gympie region, there were 128 cases of influenza reported to Queensland Health last year.
These notifications only relate to people who seek medical advice and have laboratory testing. The average annual number of cases reported for the past five years was 166, with 393 influenza cases reported in 2017. In December 2018, there were 12 cases reported in Gympie region.
"While the flu is always circulating in our community, there were 1,361 confirmed cases in November 2018, compared to an average of 645 confirmed cases for the same period in the previous five years,” Dr Malo said.
"In December 2018 there were 2028 confirmed cases, compared to an average of 534 confirmed cases for the same period in the previous five years.
"We must remain vigilant during 2019 because, as we've seen in the past, flu can occur at any time of the year and every flu season can be different.
"It's also important for pregnant women to get vaccinated against flu at any time of the year to protect themselves and their newborns.
"I'd also encourage people to continue practising good health hygiene like washing hands regularly, covering a cough with a tissue or arm, and staying at home if they're ill.”
Dr Malo said while the number of confirmed cases in November and December of 2018 was higher than usual, Queensland reported the lowest number of cases in 2018 since 2013.
"More than 15,500 cases were confirmed for 2018, well down on previous years, including 2017 when more than 56,500 cases were notified,” Dr Malo said.
"Queensland Health continues to offer free flu vaccine for children aged six months to less than five years old, one of the groups most susceptible to flu.
"There was extraordinarily high demand for the vaccine by people of all ages last year and that is what we want to see because vaccination is by far the best protection against influenza.
"More than 1.2 million government-funded flu vaccines were distributed across the state last year.
"We also spent $600,000 rolling out rapid point-of-care testing to hospital laboratories across Queensland to help diagnose flu faster.”